After nearly a year of debate, five months of primaries, 17 candidates, and much sniping, the Republican National Convention will finally begin on Monday in Cleveland, with Donald Trump and Mike Pence set to be formally nominated as the presidential and vice presidential nominees for the Republican Party. Here’s everything you need to know:
How to watch
For the prime time speeches, every major network — NBC, ABC, FOX, CBS, and PBS — will be airing the convention live. You’ll also be able to watch coverage on the major cable news networks like CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC.
If you’re a true convention nerd, though, and you want to watch the actual convention happenings all day for four days, the place to go is CSPAN. The cable channel, which normally shows live happenings within the halls of Congress, will have gavel-to-gavel coverage of the convention.
For the cord-cutters out there, there are plenty of options. Many news channels will be streaming the speeches on their websites, and CBS is working with Twitter to air the convention via the social network. CSPAN will be airing its coverage via Facebook Live.
Who are the biggest names speaking each night?
While the speaker list is tentative and subject to change, here is who you should be watching for on each night of the convention.
Monday: As is tradition, the biggest speech on Monday night will be made by the spouse of the candidate; in this case, Melania Trump. Melania is a non-traditional first lady, being a former model and a naturalized immigrant, so this speech could offer a signal of the role she’ll play in the campaign going forward. Other major speakers on Monday include former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Iowa Senator and Tea Party favorite Joni Ernst, and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton.
Tuesday: The most prominent speaker on the second day of the convention will likely be Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who ran against Trump during the primaries. One of the most unorthodox speakers, UFC President Dana White, will also address the RNC on Tuesday. And two of Trump’s children, Tiffany and Donald Jr., will speak on Tuesday.
Wednesday: The biggest speech on Wednesday will come from Indiana Governor Mike Pence, in his acceptance speech of the vice presidential nomination. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich will also address the convention on Wednesday. The most fascinating speech, though, may come from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who came in second in the Republican nominating process. Cruz hasn’t formally endorsed Trump, and the tone of his speech may be a setup for a potential presidential run in 2020, if Trump were to lose in 2016. Eric Trump, Donald’s son, will also speak on Wednesday.
Thursday: The biggie on Thursday will be Donald Trump himself. Ivanka Trump, his daughter, who has been very visible on the campaign trail, will also speak. Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, will take the stage, as will Peter Thiel, the tech entrepreneur who is a staunch libertarian and is a delegate for Trump from California.
Who won’t be there
A number of prominent Republicans have decided not to travel to Cleveland this week. This includes former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. It also includes former Republican presidential nominees Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. Some of those who ran against Trump in the nominating process, including Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Rand Paul, and Lindsay Graham, also won’t be there. A number of prominent Republican senators, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jeff Flake of Arizona, are also skipping the event.
What are the top 5 stories to watch for?
Which Trump shows up?
The biggest story of the convention will be similar to the story of the entire campaign — which Donald Trump is going to show up? At times, Trump has been able to dial down his brash personality. He’s given speeches from a teleprompter, and he’s refrained from name-calling and personal attacks. Other times, he’s focused on petty grievances and behaved like an angry child. If the Republicans have any hope of coming out of this convention unified and on a path toward victory, the first Trump had better show up.
Will there be dissent?
There are still plenty of Republicans with serious questions about Trump. Many of them will be in Cleveland, some as delegates. While an attempted coup in the GOP rules committee seems to have been thwarted, it’s an open question if any of the dyed-in-the-wool conservative RNC attendees will cause a commotion.
What impact will Pence have?
As far as VP picks go, Mike Pence is pretty boring. He’s an older white guy from a Midwestern state who made his bones as a fierce advocate for Christian conservative values. Socially conservative positions, especially those that relate to gay marriage, aren’t the reliably resonant wedge issues they once were for the Republicans. Pence is also a fairly establishment figure running alongside a fiercely anti-establishment Donald Trump. In the end, vice presidential candidates are largely inconsequential to election outcomes, because voters largely cast their ballots with the top of the ticket in mind. An especially weak appearance from Pence, though, could hurt Trump among undecided voters watching at home.
What will be going on outside the convention?
The controversies that have followed Trump throughout his campaign — his comments about Muslims and Mexicans, and his popularity among white nationalists in particular — seem primed to come to a head. Groups on both sides, including the New Black Panthers and the Oathkeepers, have promised to come armed. And they’ll be allowed to carry their weapons without hassle from the police, thanks to open carry laws in Ohio. While convention protest activity never quite seems to live up to the hype, the streets may be quite chaotic this year.
Can the GOP get on track?
It has been a tough election season for the Republicans. The party’s primary season was messy, yielding a winner with only marginal connections to the party. Many of the party elders are questioning the future of the GOP. If the convention is disciplined, on message, and smooth, polls could show a bounce for Trump and signs of life for the party. If it is an amateur hour, though, more independents and moderate Republicans could defect to Hillary Clinton or simply choose to stay home on election day.